ARLINGTON, Texas – All the furniture in the middle of the Texas Rangers clubhouse had been removed in anticipation of a celebration.
Why not? The Rangers were up four runs entering the ninth inning. The American League West title was in their hands. A party was three outs away from breaking out.
Oh, there were story lines. Putting at ease those unnerved by the possibility of a 2012-like fold. Josh Hamilton hitting two homers against the team whose manager and owner would have rather had a colonoscopy than have him on their roster.
Then, a familiar story line reared its ugly head, and the ninth inning turned into something that was, well, so Rangers.
There was no Rangers celebration Saturday. Instead, there was shock and stunned silence as the Los Angeles Angels scored five times in the ninth inning to win 11-10 and keep Texas' title hopes on hold.
A Monday tiebreaker for the West crown is a realistic possibility. So, too, is the Rangers having to settle for the second wild card and a trip to New York on Tuesday.
"It was a fun game to be a part of, but a tough game to be on the losing end of," Hamilton said. "They did a good job not giving up and not quitting. It's a tough one, but we get a nice afternoon off, can go home and not think about it too much, and come back tomorrow and try to get after it again."
The Rangers' magic number held at one, meaning they could still win the division with a Houston loss later Saturday at Arizona. If the Astros win, the Rangers will need to beat the Angels on Sunday in the regular-season finale or have the Astros lose to the Diamondbacks.
If the Astros and Rangers finish tied at 87-75, the two will play one game for the title Monday at the Globe. For that to happen, the Rangers will have to lose their final three games of the season.
The Rangers lost their final three games in 2012 at Oakland to lose the division title and settle for the wild-card game, which they promptly lost to Baltimore. That was a year after twice surrendering two-run leads with two outs in Game 6 of the World Series.
The Rangers will have Cole Hamels, their best starting pitcher and one of the top lefthanders in the game, pitching Sunday against Angels ace Garrett Richards, who will be working on three days' rest.
"I feel like we're in a good position," manager Jeff Banister said. "That's why we set it up the way we did. We knew that this was going to be a tough series."